Cowboys Game Management Specialist An Option?

There is one complaint about Jason Garrett among Cowboys fans and analysts that seems to dwarf any other. Garrett’s game management, particularly near the end of games, often leaves a lot to be desired. Notable examples include the fourth quarters of games against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions last season, the end of the first half against the Washington Redskins in week 1 in 2010 when Garrett was the offensive coordinator and play caller, and a 2012 game against the New York Giants when Jerry and Stephen Jones were shown on TV screaming for a timeout while Garrett let the clock run. Further details will be spared so as to not ruin your day by dredging up memories of those epic failures.

Jason Garrett has many positive qualities as a head coach that, in my opinion, justify allowing Garrett to continue coach the Cowboys. Foremost of those qualities is Garrett’s long term view of roster management that has buffered Jerry Jones’ reactionary, short term, “one player away” moves that I believe were too often based on Jones’ overly optimistic assessment of the teams’ talent and ability to get to the glory hole (i.e. Super Bowl).

In Garrett’s four off-seasons, he oversaw a roster that transitioned from one of the older rosters in the league in 2010, when 7 of the 22 starters were 30 or over, to one of the younger rosters, with only 3 of the 22 projected starters for 2014 being 30 or over.  For 2014, I project Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Doug Free as starters, although Anthony Spencer (30), Jeremy Mincey (31) and Uche Nwaneri (30) could add to that total.

So how can the team bear the fruits of Garrett’s strengths while improving his weaknesses? Last season, Jerry Jones talked about Garrett learning and improving as a head coach. Jones appears to be banking on Garrett being able to either learn to be better in game management situations or simply hoping that he improves with experience. But what if assessing  multiple variables in mere seconds while under tremendous pressure and while performing several other tasks just isn’t a particular talent or ability that Garrett has? Garrett appears to be a very analytical thinker, which is an asset for the development of a long term strategy.  However, studies of personality types indicate that analytical people typically struggle when forced to make quick decisions.  This is likely because they like to analyze and process a large amount of information when making decisions, which typically isn’t possible when a quick decision is required.

Rather than hoping Garrett improves his game management ability, the Cowboys can be innovative and hire a game management specialist who focuses solely on game management decisions. Coincidentally, another common criticism of Garrett with which I tend to agree is that the team doesn’t seem to be as innovative as many other teams. A game management specialist could use computer programs to help process the multitude of variables that change from play to play to assist in the decision making. Software already exists that calculates expected win percentage after each play. Such a program could be used to project win percentages based on various play call options. For example, when trailing during the fourth quarter and facing fourth down, the program could provide valuable guidance on whether going for it or punting an outcome that is statistically more likely to improve the expected win percentage. If the decision is to go for the first down, the program could also be used to identify whether a run or pass play is preferable.  The program could be optimized by incorporating team-specific statistics rather than using statistics from the entire league.

Similarly, a programmer could create a program intended to optimize the use of timeouts during games that considers the score, time remaining, timeouts left, the two minute warning, and any other relevant factors.  For the Cowboys, a game management specialist could use programs that provide relevant information and relay the results and a suggestion to Garrett to make the ultimate decision.

While some old school coaches may scoff at the use of such technology, it is without doubt that coaches make game management decisions in part by processing quantitative situational information. It is also without doubt that coaches, and any human, will inevitably be unable to consider all relevant information and be prone to making mistakes in analyzing the information that they do consider. Therefore, an innovative team that realizes that using technology to lessen the information processing tasks required from coaches while still allowing human judgment based on precise, computer-processed probabilities can gain a competitive advantage.  This is especially true for a team with a head coach that has often struggled with game management decisions.

Frank Buffington

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Zack Martin and Draft Flexibility

Zack Martin

Think ahead to the 2015 offseason.  Imagine Doug Free performed decently in 2014 (similar to his 2013 performance) and Free’s agent is demanding $5 million per year and a sizable signing bonus for a new contract.  What would your reaction be if you were in Stephen Jones’ position?  If it were me, I would say “See if another team will pay you that.”  I would feel confident in allowing Free to leave due to Zack Martin’s ability to play right tackle and the team having two  starting caliber guards in Ron Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau.  I’d also consider the compensatory pick that could be netted by Free signing elsewhere. Now imagine the same scenario, except that the Cowboys didn’t draft Zack Martin.  Assume they drafted C.J. Mosley, Calvin Pryor, or maybe a guy you may have heard a little bit about – Johnny Manziel.   In that scenario, Stephen Jones might be feeling a little bit of pressure.  He could wonder how the team could go into the 2015 season without a proven right tackle to protect Tony Romo, especially considering the large disparity between how well Romo performed in 2013 when he had good protection versus when he was pressured.  Pro Football Focus recently published an article analyzing how Tony Romo fared under a myriad of circumstances during the past season.  The most significant items from the article were:

  • Among the league’s worst under pressure at -14.2, particularly non-blitz pressure (-10.3).
  • Fourth-highest grade in a clean pocket at +24.4.

Considering these findings it’s clear that investing in protecting Romo is important to the team’s success, even more important than to the majority of other NFL teams.  While the anticipated benefit of  improved quarterback protection and an improved running game have been well covered, one of the benefits of selecting Martin that seems to have been overlooked is the flexibility he offers the team to select the best player available in future drafts rather than reaching for need.  While it could be argued that the team may instead reach for another position that wasn’t selected high in the 2014 draft, I think the team would be under greater pressure to fill a significant hole in the offensive line more than any other hole in the roster.  For example, while boosting the pass rush is very important, protecting Romo is of the utmost importance to the team.  Additionally, the team is more likely to find a quality defensive end in free agency than a quality offensive tackle.  As the Cowboys brass mentioned in 2011 after drafting Tyron Smith, top quality offensive tackles rarely hit the open market.  However, several high quality pass rushers have hit the open market in recent years, including former high draft picks Julius Peppers and Mario Williams. To test the hypothesis that more quality defensive ends than offensive tackles are available in free agency, the two tables below list the 4-3 defensive ends and the offensive tackles that have signed an unrestricted free agent contract this offseason.  The names and contract information were obtained from the Overthecap.com 2014 Free Agent Contract Tracker.  Pro Football Focus (PFF) is the source of the 2013 PFF Rating.

4-3 DEFENSIVE END FREE AGENTS
Name 2013 PFF Rating 2013 Team/2014 Team Contract Amount Per Year Amount Guaranteed Contract Years
Michael Johnson 23.3 CIN/TB 8,750,000 16,000,000 5
Michael Bennett 22.5 SEA/SEA 7,125,000 10,000,000 4
Justin Tuck 12.6 NYG/OAK 5,000,000 4,350,000 2
DeMarcus Ware 9.7 DAL/DEN 10,000,000 16,500,000 3
Lamarr Houston 7.4 OAK/CHI 7,000,000 8,950,000 5
Willie Young 5.0 DEN/CHI 3,000,000 3,950,000 3
Everson Griffen 2.4 MIN/MIN 8,500,000 19,800,000 5
Jeremy Mincey 2.0 DEN/DAL 1,500,000 1,700,000 2
Israel Idonije (5.4) DET/CHI 955,000 0 1
Jared Allen (6.3) MIN/CHI 8,000,000 15,500,000 4
Jason Babin (6.3) JAC/JAC 2,425,000 500,000 3
Chris Clemons (9.0) SEA/JAC 4,375,000 4,475,000 4
Corey Wooten (10.8) CHI/MIN 1,500,000 400,000 1

 

OFFENSIVE TACKLE FREE AGENTS
Name 2013 PFF Rating 2013 Team/2014 Team Contract Amount Per Year Guaranteed Amount Contract Years
Zach Strief 20.9 NO/NO 4,000,000 6,400,000 5
Eugene Monroe 20.5 BAL/BAL 7,500,000 19,000,000 5
Anthony Collins 12.0 CIN/TB 6,000,000 9,000,000 5
Branden Albert 5.9 KC/MIA 9,400,000 20,000,000 5
Donald Penn 4.2 TB/OAK 5,300,000 4,200,000 2
Jeff Linkenbach 1.9 IND/KC 900,000 250,000 1
Breno Giacomini (1.5) SEA/NYJ 4,500,000 7,000,000 4
Austin Howard (4.5) NYJ/OAK 6,000,000 7,900,000 5
Jared Veldheer (5.5) OAK/ARI 7,000,000 10,500,000 5
Marshall Newhouse (8.9) GB/CIN 805,000 50,000 1
Michael Oher (17.1) BAL/TEN 5,000,000 6,000,000 4

Some takeaways from the data:

  • There were 8 defensive ends with a positive PFF rating available versus 6 positively rated offensive tackles.
  • Of the 13 defensive ends in the top quartile (25%) according to the PFF ratings*, 5 made it to unrestricted free agency and 4 of those 5 changed teams.
  • Of the 19 offensive tackles in the top quartile (25%) according to the PFF ratings*, 2 made it to unrestricted free agency and neither switched teams.

* When calculating the top quartile of players, players who took < 25% of their teams’ snaps excluded due to the cumulative nature of PFF grades. The hypothesis held true for our small, one year sample.  One likely reason for more defensive ends being available is that defensive ends are more likely than offensive tackles to be bad scheme fits when teams change schemes.  A good example is Mario Williams, who would not be a good fit in a 3-4 defense and was not resigned by the Houston Texans, while a top offensive tackle can play in almost any offensive scheme.  Another likely reason is that the play of offensive linemen requires cohesion more than the play of defensive lineman.  A third reason is that teams that have a franchise quarterback want to protect their franchise quarterback, and teams that don’t have a franchise quarterback are usually trying to develop one, which requires good offensive line protection. A factor specific to the Cowboys that could make signing a high quality free agent defensive end more likely than signing a high quality free agent offensive tackle is what I’ll call the Rod Marinelli factor.  Playing for Rod Marinelli could be seen as a career booster and an incentive for defensive linemen to sign with Dallas.  That same incentive likely doesn’t exist for offensive linemen. Zack Martin and Draft Flexibility Now let’s fast forward a bit further to the 2015 NFL draft.  Imagine the Cowboys don’t have Free or Martin on the roster.  The pressure on the team to add a quality offensive tackle early in the draft would be significantly higher than the pressure the team felt to add a pass rushing defensive end in the 2014 draft.  In terms of long term roster building, one of the worst things a NFL team can do is reach for a specific position during the draft.  A good example from the most recent draft is the Miami Dolphins drafting Juwan James.  Miami was so desperate for offensive line help that they drafted James at least a round higher than most NFL teams had him valued.  With Martin on board, not only will the Cowboys not be pressured to take an offensive tackle with their first or second round pick, they will also not be precluded from using such a pick to select an offensive tackle if an offensive tackle is the best player available.  In that situation, Martin can continue to play guard. By selecting Zack Martin, the Cowboys got arguably the best player available and someone that should improve the flexibility of the Cowboys offensive line.  Those points have been thoroughly discussed.  What has been overlooked is the flexibility the Martin selection affords the team in the next offseason and beyond. — Frank Buffington

What is Dez Bryant Worth?

Dez Bryant

One of the most important decisions that the Dallas Cowboys organization faces within the next year, is what to do with Dez Bryant, particularly regarding contract negotiations.  In my opinion, this decision will be more important than the ones the coaching staff will make regarding how to use Bryant on the field.  Bryant’s contract expires at the end of the upcoming season, and the contract negotiations will have a long term effect on the team’s roster, salary cap, and ultimately wins and losses for many years to come.

Jason Fitzgerald, who operates the website www.overthecap.com, recently came up with a proposed contract extension for Bryant.  The article appears to be written more from the perspective of how he would approach an extension if he were Bryant’s agent, rather than from the team perspective.  The analysis with the following chart that lists the top 6 wide receiver contracts that were signed when the player was under 30.  Jason concluded, and I agree, that Bryant is superior to the bottom four on this list.  He argued that Bryant could attempt to get into the area of Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, but didn’t think he could.  I also would not put him on par with Johnson or Fitzgerald at the times they signed their contracts.  Jason also correctly points out that both Johnson and Fitzgerald had stronger negotiating positions than Bryant because their previous contracts had their teams in a corner.  For Fitzgerald, the annual salaries for the last two years of his previous contract were so high that it would have crippled the team’s salary cap position and franchising him offered no benefit, due to the requirement that franchised players receive a raise from the previous season.

Jason concludes that a fair contract extension for Bryant in 2014 would be a seven year, $105 million ($15 million per year) with a $20 million signing bonus, $31 fully guaranteed, and $45 guaranteed for injury.  The annual figures for Jason’s proposed contract extension and the running cash paid and average per year are listed below, but I really recommend reading his article in its entirety, because the analysis is very thorough and considers the Cowboys current and future salary cap situation.  Overthecap.com is an impressive website and is a must read for those interested in the NFL salary cap.

My take on the proposed contract is that while it seems fair in relation to the contracts of other top wide receivers, I have some concerns with the large amount of guaranteed money and the fact that the pay for top wide receivers seems inflated in comparison to their importance to winning.  This is just a personal opinion and can’t be statistically verified, but I’d take a stud left tackle like Tyron Smith over a stud wide receiver like Dez Bryant.  Additionally, left tackles seem to be more consistent performers from year to year and over their careers than wide receivers, so teams are more likely to get what they pay for when signing left tackles in comparison to wide receivers.

A concern that is specific to Bryant is that he has had back spasms on several occasions and reportedly had to receive an epidural shot to be able to finish a game last season.  I’m not a medical professional and don’t know the long term risks that may go along with that condition, but it does sound like something that could get worse and cause problems in subsequent years.

I also have a general aversion to large amounts of guaranteed money in contracts, but that seems to be unavoidable if you want to sign a top player in today’s NFL.  However, I think the key decision when offering guaranteed money is to assess what motivates a player and whether the level of motivation will decrease after the contract is signed.

This is what would have made the Mike Wallace contract disturbing to me if I was a Dolphins fan.  I laughed when I saw that Miami gave him more than double what I would have paid him, but as a Cowboys fan perhaps my reaction should have been to be annoyed that Miami drove up the asking price for wide receivers nearing the end of their contracts.  Wallace was coming off a bad year with Pittsburgh and his commitment to the game could definitely be questioned.  I personally know several Steelers fans that didn’t want him back under any circumstances.  I wasn’t surprised that he publicly criticized Miami’s coaching staff after getting paid a lot of guaranteed money.  While the coaching staff may not have used him correctly, I still believe that any complaints should be kept in house and not made public.

The Cowboys know much more about Dez Bryant than I ever will, so that is decision that they should be more equipped to handle that someone who has never met him.  However, they also knew Jay Ratliff well, or at least thought they did.  They also knew Miles Austin, Marion Barber, Roy Williams (the safety), and several other players who re-signed but didn’t ever match their past performance.

Many fans have some strong opinions on the positives and negatives of signing Bryant to a long term contract based on Bryant’s personality.  Those with negative opinions argue that signing Dez Bryant is riskier than signing a typical player. Some issues such as reportedly being consistently late for meetings and practice in college, getting in a shouting match and nearly a fight at a club with a rapper, being kicked out of a mall for something related to wearing pants too low, and having emotional outbursts on the sideline during games, including one that lead to him starting to leave the field before the game ended.

Those with positive opinions point out that Bryant has matured greatly during his time in Dallas and see the emotion that Bryant expresses during games as evidence that Bryant is a hard worker with a strong will to win that exceeds the will of his teammates.  Jason Garrett recently compared Bryant to Michael Irvin, who was known as the emotional leader of the 1990’s Cowboys teams and one of the team’s hardest workers.

I see some validity in each of those points of view, but fall somewhere in the middle.  I don’t think there is evidence of a bad attitude, but I also don’t think his demonstrative show of emotion indicates that he is a harder worker, although it does indicate a strong competitive will during games.  Jason Garrett has indicated that Jason Witten is the model player for being a hard worker and right kind of guy.  Although he may not show nearly as much emotion, no one should question how hard he works or his will to win.  Jerry Rice is another example of a player with a top notch work ethic and will to win who did not show a lot of emotion during games.  One of my pet peeves is when fans judge how hard a player works by how much emotion the player shows during a game.  The vast majority of NFL players provide excellent effort during games.  However, the distinguishing part of commitment is the effort put in when no one is looking (film study, working out in the off-season, and eating well, etc.).  Regardless, I do see Bryant as a very charismatic person who could be an Irvin-like emotional leader for the Cowboys as soon as this season.

It should also be noted that Bryant wasn’t graded very highly by the people who run Pro Football Focus.  He didn’t make their Top 101 list for 2013 (and was ranked only 96th in 2012) due to inconsistent play that was plagued with drops and fumbles.  They also note that Bryant’s stats resulted in part from a high number of targets.  Pro Football Focus’ analysis of Bryant’s exclusion from their Top 101 list is here.  Bryant had three fumbles in 2013, which tied for the league lead among wide receivers and tight ends (NFL.com).  Bryant also had two fumbles in 2012 and one in 2011. The 2013 fumbles appear to be something in Bryant’s play that needs to be corrected rather than a random problem in 2013.  My eye test agrees, as I remember seeing Bryant carry the ball carelessly on several occasions.  The good thing is that this should be a problem that is correctable, and I think Bryant has a good chance to be an elite, perennial Pro-Bowl wide receiver.

If I was negotiating a contract with Bryant’s agent, I would attempt to get to either a lower annual value in the $12 million range and/or less fully guaranteed money.  In return, I’d offer to lessen the length of the contract so that Bryant could hit free agency around 2018 rather than in 2021.  This would be a significant concession to Bryant because hitting free agency after the season he turns 30 is much better than after the season he turns 33.  Such a contract could also work in the Cowboy’s favor because it could increase Bryant’s motivation knowing that his contract is not a “career contract” and he still has something to work hard for monetarily.  It could also offer a situation that leads to a compensatory pick or where franchising Bryant could net good trade value after the contract expires.  If the team is in rebuilding mode at that time (hopefully it isn’t), signing a 30 year old receiver to a big money contract likely wouldn’t be a high priority.  Additionally, this could avoid putting the team in a corner with high contract amounts in the final year or years of a deal, which could cause a bad salary cap situation and give Bryant the upper hand in negotiations similar to the situation that the Cardinals were in with Larry Fitzgerald prior to his latest contract.  To put it simply, a shorter deal with less fully guaranteed money gives the team more flexibility in the future.

I think Bryant’s agent would have to consider such a deal, especially considering that Dallas could apply the franchise tag after this season and Bryant would likely earn in the $11-13 million range without the security of any additional guaranteed money.  The 2014 exclusive franchise tender for wide receivers is $12.3 million per NFL.com and the non-exclusive franchise tender is $11.5 million according to the Jacksonville Jaguars official team website.  Additionally, reports indicate that the agent for DeMaryius Thomas plans to ask for $12 million per season.  In my opinion, Thomas is the more comparable to Bryant than the six wide receivers listed in the table above.  Thomas ranked #51 on the Pro Football Focus Top 101 list for 2013.

What do you think Dez Bryant is worth, Cowboys Nation? — Frank Buffington

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The Cowboys Options Regarding Kyle Orton and Salary Cap Implications

Kyle Orton

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Ed Note: CowboysNation.com is pleased to bring you the first post by Frank Buffington, our own resident capologist. If you have salary cap questions leave them for Frank in the comments below. He will be doing regular post and we hope you are as excited with this new aspect of the site as we are.

There are plenty of theories on what is going on in the head of Kyle Orton.  In this article, I will attempt to outline his options, the team’s options, and determine the effect of each outcome on the team’s salary cap.

The details of Orton’s contract are listed below, courtesy of www.overthecap.com.

The Cowboys signed Orton to a 3 year, $10.5 million contract on March 14, 2012. Orton received a $5 million signing bonus. In March 2013 the Cowboys converted $510,000 of Orton’s base salary into a signing bonus and added two void years in 2015 and 2016 for proration purposes. Those seasons will automatically void in February of 2015.  Below are the details by year.

Year Base
Salary
Prorated
Bonus
Roster
Bonus
Workout
Bonus
Other
Bonus
Cap
Number
Dead
Money
Cap
Savings
2012 $900,000 $1,000,000 $0 $0 $0 $1,900,000 $5,000,000 ($3,100,000)
2013 $840,000 $1,127,500 $0 $0 $0 $1,967,500 $4,510,000 ($2,542,500)
2014 $3,250,000 $1,127,500 $0 $0 $0 $4,377,500 $3,382,500 $995,000
2015 $3,500,000 $1,127,500 $0 $0 $0 $4,627,500 $2,255,000 $2,372,500
2016 $3,500,000 $1,127,500 $0 $0 $0 $4,627,500 $1,127,500 $3,500,000

I’m not sure why the prorated bonus is $1,000,000 ($5 million divided by 5) rather than $1,666,667 ($5 million divided by 3) for the 2012 season considering that the option years were added in 2013, but I’ll assume that the above figures are correct because (1) www.overthecap.com is generally very accurate, and (2) as explained below, using these amounts to calculate potential forfeitures agrees with amounts reported by staff from www.dallascowboys.com.

Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), when players receive a signing bonus and choose to not fulfill the entire period of the contract due to retiring, the team can make a claim to recover the “unearned” portion of the signing bonus.  The unearned portion is calculated by prorating the time period of the contract not fulfilled in relation to the total time period of the contract.

If Orton were to retire, the question is whether the “unearned” portion of his signing bonus would be 3/5 (60%) of the original $5 million signing bonus (because he played for 2 of the 5 years of the contract and did not play for 3 of the years) or should the automatically voided 2015 and 2016 years be removed from the equation and then the “unearned” portion of the original signing bonus would be only 1/3 (33%) of the original $5 million signing bonus.

There is a similar situation for the $510,000 of scheduled 2013 salary that was converted to a signing bonus.  If that amount is prorated over the 2013-2016 years, the unearned amount would be ¾ (75%) of the amount.  Without the two voidable years, the amount would be ½ (50%) of the amount.  Additionally, Orton’s agent could make the case that he was scheduled to fully earn the $510,000 in salary in 2013 and that it should not be subject to forfeiture.

The question of whether to include the voidable years is significant because the difference in the amount that would be subject to forfeiture, and therefore the effect on the team’s salary cap and Orton’s bank account is over $1 million.  When including the two voidable years, the amount subject to forfeiture is $3,382,500 ($3,000,000 of the original $5,000,000 signing bonus plus $382,500 of the $510,000 signing bonus in 2013).  When the two voidable years are not included in the calculation, the amount subject to forfeiture is only $2,049,167 ($1,666,667 of the original $5,000,000 signing bonus plus $255,000 of the $510,000 signing bonus).  If the $510,000 “signing bonus” was removed from the equation, which Orton’s agent could argue for, then the forfeiture amounts would be $3,000,000 when counting the voidable years and $1,666,667 when not counting the voidable years.

It appears that the language of the CBA does not take voidable years into account, and this is apparently the position taken by the team’s media staff reporting at www.dallascowboys.com, who stated that Orton would have to repay over $3 million dollars if he retired.

If Orton does indeed want to retire from football, I can see why he wouldn’t want to pay the higher amount back due to years added to the contract that automatically void.  Although this may be the crux of the disagreement between Orton and the team, I have a feeling that Orton is going to attempt to force the team to release him and thereby not have to repay any of the signing bonus money.  I think the Cowboys would gladly accept a forfeiture payment of $1,666,667 that relates only to 1/3 of the original $5,000,0000 signing bonus.  I know I would.  The only rational and non-legalistic reason that the team would expect more forfeiture by including the voidable years is if the team agreed to give Orton extra money in exchange for the his agreement to add the voidable years.  Although the team did benefit from the voidable years, I believe it is unlikely that the team would have added money to the deal just to get the voidable years.  If the Orton camp didn’t foresee early retirement as a possibility, the addition of the voidable years would not have been anything they would have been concerned about including in the deal.

Besides being fair in relation to not counting the voidable years in the calculation of the forfeiture, I think the team would accept the lowered forfeiture because Orton does have some leverage that he could exert over the team.  If Orton does report to training camp and suffer an injury, the team would be responsible for paying an injury settlement were he to be released.  Orton could be a Rat and feign that such an injury was not healing.  If the team reacted to that by putting Orton on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, then the portion of his full salary and associated portion of his signing bonus while on the PUP list would count against the salary cap and not be subject to forfeiture until he “recovered” from the injury.

I think there may be more to the story than Orton deciding to retire.  Besides losing upwards of $6 million between forfeiture and his 2014 salary, it appears that Orton wasn’t thinking of early retirement last off-season.  If he was, it is unlikely that he would have accepted converting $510,000 of his 2013 base salary into a signing bonus and making that subject to potential forfeiture. That would have been a foolish decision unless he was not considering retiring until after the 2014 season at the earliest or his agent was very confident that the money would not be forfeited.  How likely is it that such a big decision was made in less than a year?

Perhaps Orton and his agent are trying to get more money from the Cowboys because they feel his worth to the team has increased due to Tony Romo’s back surgery.  They may be thinking that the Cowboys must be concerned about Romo getting injured during the season and the team not having an adequate backup.  Personally, I don’t see any reason why the Cowboys would give an inch with his salary.  First of all, most unbiased observers would put the chances of the Cowboys making the Super Bowl at pretty slim even with Romo healthy all season.  The defense just doesn’t have a ton of talent at this point.  If Romo suffers a significant injury, the season will not be successful with or without Orton.  Brandon Weeden is an experienced quarterback, and the results may not be much different with him, other than he comes at a much lower salary. If Romo were to miss significant time, the team will likely be better off by not having a good backup quarterback and, as a result, be put in a better position to get a quarterback at the top of the 2015 NFL draft.  This is not something the team would ever say publicly, but do you think Indianapolis is upset that their team didn’t panic and go get a capable backup when Peyton Manning was lost for the year?  Of course not, because it netted them Andrew Luck.

Another theory is that Orton wants to be a starter this season rather than waiting until 2015 and is trying to force a trade or release in order to achieve that goal.  If that were to occur, Dallas would absorb all of the money from his signing bonuses that have not yet hit the salary cap as dead money between 2014 and 2015, but would be off the hook for his 2014 salary.   If that is Orton’s plan, I really don’t see the point in doing that because holding out may lead other teams to view him less favorably and reduce the amount he would get paid.  However, I don’t see any logic in Orton holding out or retiring under any of these scenarios, so your guess is as good as mine.  I don’t see another team looking at Orton as a potential final piece to a Super Bowl team or even an above average starter.  Therefore, I don’t think he would get a big salary or net the Cowboys more than a late round pick in a trade.

KYLE ORTON POLL:

Which outcome do you prefer, Cowboys Nation?
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Salary Cap Question? Comment below – Frank Buffington